09/18/2014 05:48 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2014

Fall Fun for Kids (and Parents!) Of All Ages

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The weather has changed. There is a crisp in the air and people are pulling out jackets and boots in many areas of the country. The sunny summer days a the beach and running around to carnivals and picnics may be over, but it means plenty of fun things to do and see that make fall such a great time. Granted, it can be harder to do with school being back in session and all of the extracurricular activities that come during this time of the year. But be sure to make a little time to take advantage of what this time of the year has to offer.

I try to take Gigi for a few fall foliage walks or rides. There are plenty of walking paths in many areas that are known for their variety of trees and the beauty of the color changing. Even a simple walk in the local park or trails will provide nature's backdrop, and your kids will love collecting the leaves. We always bring some home, and Gigi makes pictures or puts them in a bag to dry. Acorns and pine cones provide her hours of being creative making up her own crafts with them. She also gains memories that will last her lifetime, and an appreciation of nature and the environment that has a benefit to all.

In most parts of the country, apple and pumpkin picking are available. Of course what is fall without the traditional trip to the orchard? We make it a tradition every year and Gigi loves to pick her apples, then come home and make pies though after all these years, we still haven't perfected ours. Don't forget to bring home some apple doughnuts or apple butter, just in case your pies are a bust! Yes the pumpkins are overpriced at the pumpkin patch and its crowded, but kids always have a great time. There are so many choices in a lot of areas in the country, with so many activities like corn mazes, wagon rides, scarecrow making and more! Be sure to look online and places like Groupon before you go because they always have discount coupons for admission.

Fall sports are also a fun way to enjoy the season. We are Chicago Bears fans and that means tailgating at the stadium or enjoying games at home with friends. Even going to your local high school or college's games can be fun for little ones. Sitting the bleachers, some hot cocoa (or whatever beverage keeps you warm) and enjoy a little of the traditional sporting event foods can be a blast for them and not too expensive on your budget. It is exciting for kids and they can get exposure to the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, etc.

We also have fall cooking days at home, whipping up fall classics like chili, dishes made from squash, pumpkins and other fall harvest, and of course yummy pies. You can perfect your recipes and if you're brave enough find a local chili cook-off or pie contest to enter your work. The kids will love helping and being part, and imagine how fun it will be if you bring home a win! Bon fires with roasting marshmallows, a little music, hot cocoa and other treats are so easy to do -- if you're not comfortable or don't have the space for a traditional bon fire in your yard, a good fire pit from the home and garden store can work just as well. We often have bon fire nights here with parents and kids -- it can be such a great time and bonding experience for all.

Have you ever attended fall festivals? Just because summer is over doesn't mean there isn't still plenty of festival fun. We have some great Octoberfest events locally, or look for speciality events at museums or other spots. Our favorite fall fest is a local one called Scarecrow Festival, literally hundreds of scarecrows on display plus fun areas for kids to build their own. We never miss it and some years we've even entered a scarecrow into the contest.

Of course, you can't forget Halloween and Harvest festivals! Every year, Gigi has a spooky sleepover with her friends. They wear costumes and watch a "somewhat spooky" movie. We make fun Halloween themed snacks and plan a scavenger hunt and other themed games. She looks forward to it every year and helps me shop and cook for it. Costume shopping and creation is also a fun tradition during the fall season. Today you can do so much to make great costumes on your own, which can be a fun craft for you and little ones to do together -- plus they get a cool costume out of the deal!

Don't forget that staycations and being tourists in your own city can be a fun fall activity for all. During the fall months, many cities have unique tours and other events that are geared toward the season. Even hopping in the car and taking a drive a few hours can be a fun way to get the kids out of the house and everybody having a little fun.